Those of us who follow how public policy impacts private-sector efforts to develop domestic mineral resources need to tune in to the current Capitol Hill debate on jobs and economic growth.
Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) recently introduced the Public Lands Job Creation Act, a bill that he says “will streamline the permitting process for energy development, including mineral and renewable energy development, while also preserving the time necessary for environmental analysis.” Reports also indicate that Heller intends to attach his legislation to a larger jobs package that could be voted on as early as today.
At the heart of Heller’s language is a directive to speed up the mining permitting process in America. That legislative trigger would set a firm 45-day turnaround period for the U.S. Department of Interior (DoI) to complete its review process of any and all notices sent from state Bureau of Land Management offices.
If enacted, this timely turnaround would certainly help American companies bring new mines into production, which is critical to our nation’s resource development. According to the authoritative Behr Dolbeare annual report on mining countries, the U.S. ranks dead last in terms of the time to take to permit a new mine: 7 to 10 years on average.
It is worth noting that this bill does not seek to shortcut environmental review or safety concerns connected to mining. From what we can tell, it simply seeks to keep the review process moving forward in a timely manner – or in the United States’ case, moving forward at all.
Whether or not Congress will perceive this sort of reform as key to job creation and economic growth is anything but clear; however, what is beyond dispute is that the U.S. must find ways to increase its responsible domestic resource development. We must decrease the needless dependency on foreign metals and minerals critical to our economy and national security.